Since India’s white-ball squad landed in Sri Lanka for the limited overs series, there have been debates on whether this is a ‘second string’ side. Former Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga slammed the country’s cricket board for agreeing to host a ‘second-string Indian team’ with Cricket Sri Lanka rejecting his assertion.
But the Indian team, coached by Rahul Dravid, is not thinking about it. “Everyone is completely focused. The way practice sessions are going, the way the game went yesterday, we are really excited. We are ready for the challenge and not think about that (the talks about this being a ‘B’ team). We are just here to have some fun, enjoy the series and take a lot of positives from here,” Suryakumar Yadav said during a media interaction on Tuesday.
For the second time in its cricketing history, India has fielded two different squads simultaneously. While Virat Kohli’s team is busy in England, the white ball side – led by Shikhar Dhawan – will be playing three T20Is and three ODIs in Colombo.
“Two teams are playing simultaneously, and I am really excited about it,” Yadav said. All matches will be played at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, so will that help the team in the series?
“It will be the same for both the teams. You will get to know about the conditions after the first game, so you can plan accordingly with the ground dimensions and pitch conditions and what happens in the afternoons. It will be fun,” he said.
The wickets in Sri Lanka are usually slower and with humidity soaring, it could be a challenge for the visiting team. “We have played in such conditions in Mumbai, Chennai – where it is hot, and the humidity is high. We have come here 15 days before to get acclimatised with the conditions, so it is good,” he said.
“We played a (intra-squad) game yesterday, it was slow and steady. Yesterday, the wicket was fine, and I hope it stays this way. Yes, the wickets are a bit slow, and you need time and go about your innings accordingly. It will be a good challenge and I am looking forward to it.”
With the T20 World Cup just three months away, the series is crucial for a lot of players and Yadav, too, is looking forward to working under coach Dravid. “It is a great opportunity for everyone to have a tour amid the situation. It is a great challenge and responsibility for everyone to come out here and express themselves. The great thing is having Rahul sir around. We have heard a lot about him, and this is my first tour with him. I am looking forward to it,” he said.
Yadav broke into the Indian team with a successful series against England earlier this year and he agrees that there will be pressure to perform. “That was a completely different challenge. For a batter, every time you go into a new game, you start from scratch. I must start from zero here. Both are different series, but the challenge remains the same. I must go out in the park and perform like I did,” the Mumbai-based batsman, who plays for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, said.
While the team is looking forward to the challenge, there are questions on whether Hardik Pandya will be bowling in Sri Lanka and Yadav confirmed that he did bowl in Monday’s intra-squad game. “He did bowl in the England series. During the IPL, he did not bowl. The team management and Hardik know their responsibilities well, so they are taking a call. He bowled in the intra-squad game,” Yadav stated.